Big Bend 50

Three years ago, I committed to swimming the English Channel in support of young adult cancer patients and survivors and in memory of my beloved NYU swim coach, Lauren Beam: a friend, a sister, a wife, and a mentor. Upon reaching the shores of France last summer, I knew that moment was the culmination of my battle with cancer and simultaneously the start of something incredible. I just did not know what exactly that “something” was.

In leaving the west coast for landlocked west Texas to fulfill an exciting work opportunity, it was not something that I thought would follow me here. This summer, however, cancer again struck a chord close to my heart. Caitlin Murray, one of the most admired and adored young people in Marfa, and whom I have the pleasure of working beside at the Judd Foundation, has been diagnosed with colon cancer at age 29.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to react to the news and let my emotions take over. There is no water in west Texas, true. But with land as wild and free as the Pacific, what do you do?


A 50-mile ultra-marathon through Big Bend Ranch State Park taking place on January 18th as part of the 2015 Big Bend 50 Event ( Geographically remote with over 2,000 feet of rugged elevation gain, unpredictable weather patterns, and a wide variety of wildlife, it will undoubtedly be a challenge. But as I’ve said before, nothing equates to a battle with cancer.

I’ll be running for Caitlin and the rest of my peers who are presently battling for their lives against cancer – a place I know all too well. All funds raised through this journey will once again benefit First Descents (

One of my favorite things about being in west Texas is the culture’s natural inclination towards community in the fullest sense of the word. Whether it’s a 6-man football game at the local high school or a blessing of pets by the town’s pastor, everyone shows up.

That said, I’m also thrilled to announce:

  • Two friends have already committed to run the event’s no-less-daunting 30k, also for Caitlin and First Descents.
  • Working together with the race director and local high school coaches, the Big Bend 50 Event will soon include a relay category (5 x 10k). This way, it will allow for more people to be physically involved and in turn, garner more support for the cause.
  • Depending on the timeline of Caitlin’s treatment, we will be hosting a “Welcome Home” celebration in Marfa together with live music, great BBQ, and an auction to include local crafts and everything else the area is known for.

Over the course of the next few months, I’ll be posting updates here and to my other social media accounts. If you’re interested in how you can help, maybe even participating in the Big Bend 50 event, please contact me at allidefran at

Thank you!